5 strategies to put family time first

It can be really tough for Military Service Members to have quality family time. Between work and kids, it’s normal for parents to struggle to find the right balance between keeping up and slowing down. Quality time with your family helps build strong family bonds, so it’s important to do your best to make it happen.

Quality time gives you and your family a chance to become closer and to reaffirm yourselves as a unit. The time you dedicate to coming together can make a big difference when you face periods of separation. Shared quality time also can increase your family communication skills, give you a chance to get better at solving problems together, and improve your ability to function as a team.

5 tips to create quality family time

There’s no “right” or easy way to find the right balance between work, family, and other activities and responsibilities. What works for other families might not work for yours. Some families like to spend all their free time together, while others might spend just a bit of time together throughout the week or dedicate some family time on a regular basis. The key is to find the rhythm that works for your family by keeping a few simple strategies in mind.

  1. Make fun a priority. Play! Laugh! And choose activities that everyone enjoys. Make time to unplug from electronics and go outside, or play a board game. Family play encourages social and emotional skills in children. It also gives you a chance to see the world through your kids’ eyes, which can help improve communication. Even though chores, errands, homework, and extracurricular activities are all important, make sure you set aside time where having fun together is the main event.
  2. Make quality time a routine. Set up a consistent time to focus on family, even if it’s only one night a week or a few minutes each day. Simple activities such as family meals or nightly bedtime stories can strengthen family bonds.
  3. Find meaning in your work. Even though being a Military Service Member (or just being dedicated to your career) isn’t always easy, it’s important to remember what motivates you each day. If you can find meaning in your job, you’ll also find energy and enthusiasm to take home with you.
  4. Figure it out together. Family time is a joint activity, so try to include everyone in deciding on the game plan. By discussing ideas ahead of time, you can help ensure your time together will be meaningful and you’ll all get the most out of it.
  5. Stay focused This is a biggie—especially when military culture becomes a way of life—but if you’ve committed to a certain family activity, it’s important to be fully present and engaged. Do your best to eliminate distractions.

Find a rhythm with quality time that works for your family.

Bottom line

Quality time can be tough to make—and keep—but it goes a long way toward keeping your family optimized. Remember to make family time fun, build it into a regular schedule, and make the most of the time you have by focusing on each other without disruptions.

Resources

Ashbourne, L. M., & Daly, K. J. (2012). Changing patterns of family time in adolescence: Parents’ and teens’ reflections. Time & Society, 21(3), 308–329. doi:10.1177/0961463x10387689

Ginsburg, K. R. (2007). The importance of play in promoting healthy child development and maintaining strong parent-child bonds. Pediatrics, 119(1), 182–191. doi:10.1542/peds.2006-2697

Haddock, S. A., Zimmerman, T. S., Ziemba, S. J., & Curent, L. R. (2001). Ten adaptive strategies for family and work balance: Advice from successful families. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 27(4), 445–458. doi:10.1111/j.1752-0606.2001.tb00339.x

Werner, T. L., & Shannon, C. S. (2013). Doing more with less: Women's leisure during their partners’ military deployment. Leisure Sciences, 35(1), 63–80. doi:10.1080/01490400.2013.739897

Zabriskie, R. B., & McCormick, B. P. (2017). Parent and child perspectives of family leisure involvement and satisfaction with family life. Journal of Leisure Research, 35(2), 163–189. doi:10.1080/00222216.2003.11949989